Posts Tagged ‘rice’

Spring seems to be taking it’s time, again, to come full into itself in Minnesota. It’s early still, but those few days of balmy sunshine have teased us into wanting more. Can’t blame anyone for being tired of winter, tired of snow and ready for a change. It’s kind of a metaphor, if you think about it.


We weathered, and are still weathering a tough time with nary an end in sight. It’s a vicious cycle and quite frankly, it’s beginning to wear me down. I’m tightening every string I can find and pushing myself to find more to pull taut but there aren’t many left to either eliminate or reduce. While we seem to manage, and I continue to put out feelers for employment that don’t go anywhere, there are times like I am now where I just want to pull a thick hood over it all and disappear. My insomnia doesn’t help it at all, and often makes it that much worse.

There are many things that if I choose to look at them will push my perspective into a brighter, sunnier spot. Mike is gainfully employed and as his own boss, he’s not facing the threat of layoff. He has a lot of work- almost too much sometimes- and he’s exceptionally good at what he does. We are blessed with excellent health, which is such a god-send because our insurance deductibles have increased from ‘much too high’ to ‘scary-high’ and all it would take would be one bad accident or a serious illness to send us spiraling into a deep shade of red. This is something to really be thankful for, and I credit our foods and eating habits with much of this piece of good fortune. And even before this woe settled upon us all, we had pledged to live simply and without a lot of the luxuries that many others have had to cut out lately in order to get their finances under control. For us, the idea of simple living isn’t born from our current hardship; for us it’s been a way of life. It’s a nice thought, but it doesn’t help during some of the lean times.


So with Spring in the air, the sunshine feeling warmer on our faces and the earth awakening all around us, I try to stretch for a more hopeful point of view, one where the chill of an emotional winter and the constant snowfall of economic strain disapears into the warmth of a springtime renewal. I have, if nothing else, always been an eternal optimist. My glass is always half full; it’s just been lately I’ve had the sense that I could drain the last drop from my wellspring of hope and the tap to refill it would be empty. Still, despite it all, I remain hopeful. Maybe not positive all the time, but I am, with all else lacking, eternally hopeful that when it’s all over we’ll come out better, stronger and far more resilient. And that maybe I’ll find a job.

And the sense of seeking comfort in my meals has been strong. On a recent night when my planned recipe didn’t pan out for lack of one necessary ingredient, I turned a proposed Green Chile Rice and Beans meal into a Zesty Italian Chicken and Rice, and with one bite was transported back to one of my favorite childhood dishes.


A one pan meal, Baked Chicken and Rice was a perfect and inexpensive dish to feed our big family. A cut up chicken was placed over a bed of rice mixed with cream soup and enough water, then baked until it was all moist and tender. It wasn’t perfect; sometimes the water proportions were off and it was either too dry and hard, or too mushy. And almost always, the chicken was overcooked. No, there was no perfection in the kitchen of my childhood. But I still loved the meal, and quite honestly, my most favorite part was to pry the crispy edges of baked rice off the pan and crunch my way through them. Later on when I was in college, I fell in love with a simple recipe of chicken marinated in italian dressing and then grilled, to be topped with a slice of melted mozzarella cheese.

This rice dish, the one that morphed itself into existence that night, gave me a comfort and sense of well-being that’s been lacking lately, all for the reason that it took me back, in my mind, to simpler and easier times. It had the flavor of childhood without the overcooked meat; it had the taste of my first years of freedom in college, and yet it was served and enjoyed with my two most favorite and treasured people, the ones that are holding me all together in this mess we call life. For a small moment it instilled in me a belief that everything would be all right- maybe not right away, but in time- and filled my gnawing hunger not only for sustenance, but for some hope as well.

(recipe after the jump)


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Arroz Con Pollo
(From the nameless Food Network personality)

1 (3-pound) whole chicken, cut into 10 serving pieces
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 t. ground cumin
1 1/2 T. dried oregano
2 t. sweet paprika
1/2 t. cayenne pepper
2 dried chorizo sausages (about 1 1/4 pounds), cut into 1-inch chunks
1 Spanish onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 bay leaves
2 cups long grain white rice
1 (15-ounce) can whole tomatoes with liquid
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, warm
1 cup pimento stuffed green olives

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the chicken pieces and pat dry. In a small bowl, blend 2 tablespoons oil, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, paprika and cayenne. Rub each piece of chicken with the spice paste and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes for the flavor to develop.

In a heavy, ovenproof casserole with lid, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Fry the chorizo over medium heat until it is crispy and renders its fat. Remove the chorizo with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Place the chicken in the pan, skin side down, and brown on all sides, about 10 minutes Remove from pan and set aside. Make a sofrito by sauteing the onion, garlic, bell pepper and bay leaves; cooking until the vegetables are very soft and almost dissolved. Stir in the rice so the grains are well coated with the sofrito.

Crush the tomatoes lightly with a wooden spoon and add the tomatoes and broth, season with salt and pepper. Return the chorizo and chicken to the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and transfer pot to oven. Bake for 20 minutes or until the chicken is done and the rice is tender and has absorbed the liquid. Scatter the olives on top of the chicken and rice before serving.

Colombian Arepas (thin corn cakes)
1 c. masa harina (no substitute)
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 c. hot water

Stir together salt and masa harina. Pour in water and mix with spoon. Dough will be crumbly- DO NOT add more water. Resist! Get your hands in it and press it together- it should be dry. Break off small amounts and press them between your hands to flatten them. Fry them in oil in a hot skillet until both sides are browned. Serve hot. I add to the dough about a cup of frozen corn kernels that I put through a few pulses in the food processor.

I used lots extra pepper and onion in this dish, it adds a lot to the flavor. I also added more garlic because you just can’t get enough of the stinking rose. If you have fresh tomato, by all means use them (peeled first and roughly broken up) and add in a 14 oz can of tomato sauce to help with the ‘red’ factor of the dish. Use good quality green olives- not the jarred kind, the flavor is really enhanced with them, or if you can find tiny little spanish sweet pickled peppers known as Piparras, use them as a garnish. I used chicken thighs in this version with plenty of success, and used the mexican style of a looser chorizo as opposed to the spanish style dried. Both are good but remove the casings on the mexican if its all you can find. This dish is just as flavorful made as a simple spanish rice without the meats.

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Curried Vegetables with Yellow Daal and Coconut Rice

For the Daal:
1 ½ c. either red lentils or yellow split peas
4-5 c. water

Use 4 c. water for lentils; 5 for split peas. Rinse legumes well. Place legumes and water in heavy pot, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes, until legumes are tender. Puree in batches in food processor with cooking water, adding more if necessary for smoothness. Daal will thicken upon standing.

Curried Vegetables:
Vegetable oil or ghee
1 chopped onion
2 red peppers, cored and diced
½ head cauliflower, broken into florets
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
5-6 oz. fresh spinach
2 T. fresh grated ginger root
1 T. mild curry powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 ½ c. water or vegetable broth
Juice of half a fresh lemon
Salt to taste

In a deep skillet, heat oil or ghee and add onions, cook until soft and translucent. Add peppers, cook until soft. Stir in cauliflower, curry powder and cumin. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in sweet potatoes and grated ginger. Stir to combine. Pour in water, stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Cover and cook until cauliflower and potato are fork tender but still firm. De-stem and coarse chop spinach. When vegetables are tender, stir in spinach and lemon juice. Simmer to wilt spinach then serve immediately with the Daal and Coconut Rice.

Coconut Rice
1 ½ c. water
1 c. basmati rice
½ c. coconut milk
½ t. turmeric
¼ t. kosher salt
1 cinnamon stick
¼ c. currants or golden raisins

In a saucepan with a tight fitting lid, bring water to a boil. Rinse rice well, and add to boiling water along with all the remaining ingredients. Stir to combine, reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork and remove cinnamon stick before serving

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Red Rice and Sausage

2 T.  vegetable oil

1 medium onion, diced (i was out of onion and used shallot)

2 cloves garlic, minced

8-14-oz spicy sausage, diced (I used andouille)

1 1/2 c. long grain rice

1 1/2 c. crushed canned tomato

1 1/2 c. water or broth of choice

1 14-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 c. frozen corn

In a heavy skillet with tight fitting lid, saute onion in oil over medium high heat until tender, add garlic and saute until fragrant, about a minute. Add in sausage and cook until slightly browned. Add in rice and saute until slightly golden and fragrant. Stir in water and tomato product, add in black beans and corn. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Cover pan and cook until liquid is evaporated and rice is tender. Fluff before serving. Can be topped with cilantro.

I was slightly skeptical of this recipe but forged ahead because it just looked really good. I am often leery of using canned tomato products because they tend to taste….well, canned. Tinny. Y’know….not so great. But all the flavors came together in this dish and blended beautifully. It was well received by Griffin, who got up and helped himself to another bowl. That is a rarity when I try something new. Usually he will eat a helping without too much commentary, then disappear like a rocket from the table. Second helpings is two thumbs up in his book. It was warming and comforting and not too heavy, with a good tomato flavor, hearty with sausage and had a nice contrast with the beans.

This recipe can be varied widely. Use less sausage if you wish for a lighter taste, or try any one of the delicious artisan sausages on the market these days. Adjust the amount of rice according to your needs, but always remember that the liquid should be double the rice amount. I think this dish would also be wonderful with sauteed red or poblano peppers in it too. And of course, fresh pureed tomato would make it killer. I will be curious how it tastes after sitting a day in the fridge to meld together.

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